Sunday, 2 August 2015

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is 'The Dish' to serve to non Indian types.  Everyone loves it, because the spices are sweet and mild.  I had the ladies from gradeschool and highschool over for dinner the other night.  I can't comfortably cook anything but Indian recipes, but since they’re innocents from Alberta, I decided to go light on the spicing, but when it came to the eating, they wanted it hotter!  Who knew?  After one asked for the recipe, I was astonished to see I’d never posted a straight forward ‘butter chicken’ recipe.  Well, I had to make it all over again to get the pictures, so, here goes.

This recipe serves four to six, depending on how greedy, and takes well over twenty four hours to prepare.  You might get away with twelve. The marinade is what takes the time, otherwise it's about a one and a half hour prep.  

Of course there is an easy way and a hard way.  I've given the hard way here.  If you want easy, go to the Indian aisle of a certain big grocery chain, and choose the little box of 'butter chicken' masala. Use about two tablespoons of that in place of the spices I've described here.

Tap the cardamom with the pestle a few times to release the husks.
12 boneless, skinned chicken thighs
5 garlic cloves
3 Thai Chilies
2 inches roughly chopped ginger
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt 

1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon black ajwain
15 black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 large cinnamon stick
5 cloves
3 Kashmiri chillies
5 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod
½ teaspoon turmeric powder

(or about 2 tablespoons of 'butter chicken' masala from a little box)

1 tablespoon canola oil
½ large red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or use more oil
4 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 sweet red pepper, roughly chopped
1 heaping tablespoon jaggery or brown sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ to ½ cup heavy cream (35%)
Cilantro leaves to garnish

You can go the hard way, or the easy boxed masala way!
I like to start a good 24 hours ahead, but 12 is okay, I guess.  In a blender, combine the garlic, chilies, ginger, yogurt, and salt.  Pour this into a marinating container, and add chicken.  Be sure to submerge the chicken in this marinade.  Cover and let sit for 24 hours if you can, or 12 if you’re in a hurry.

About two hours before you’re planning to serve this delectable dish, roast your spices in a large, dry pan.  Combine the coriander seed, cumin seed, black ajwain, black peppercorns, fenugreek seed, cinnnamon stick, cloves, chillies,  5 green cardamom pods (crush with a pestle first, then pound a few times and eliminate the husks) and black cardamom (same procedure).  Roast for a few minutes, till they get fragrant and colour just a bit.  Brush into a spice grinder, along with the turmeric.  Set aside. (Or measure out 2 tablespoons of 'butter chicken' masala).

Pour the oil into a large non-stick pan, setting heat to medium high.  Add the onion and cook till golden and translucent.  Buzz the spices to a powder.  Add the ghee to the pan, then the spices or instant masala.  Stir a little. The spices need to cook for a minute or two, only. 
I used home grown and super sweet Sungold tomatoes.

Meanwhile, put the tomato and sweet pepper into the blender, and liquefy. Add to the pan and stir.  Cover and simmer for about half an hour.  Taste.  I used the very sweet home grown Sungold tomatoes along with other home grown tomatoes.  I didn’t need jaggery, but if you’re using regular tomatoes, ask yourself if the flavour seems a bit bitter.  Add the jaggery if it is bitter.

Meanwhile, take the chicken out of the marinade.  I use my fingers to remove excess marinade, but more delicate types will use a spatula. Add all left over marinade to the spicy tomato mixture.  Continue to cook it at medium heat.

Traditional butter chicken is made in the tandoori.  A very expensive proposition in Canada.  If you are not a millionaire, use your barbecue to cook the chicken.  On 350 F heat, it should cook in about twenty minutes, ten per side.  If you have no barbecue, brown it in a pan with a bit of butter or ghee on high heat, then cook it through at medium heat, about twenty minutes.

Remove the chicken and add to the sauce and cooked marinade.  Add the cream and taste.  You may be happy with a little cream, or you may go crazy and add a lot.  I recommend a lot.
Use as much cream as you dare.  You only live once...

Serve over basmati rice, with perhaps a little cilantro for garnish.  Oh my goodness.  For the ladies, I used only three Thai chilies, carefully seeded, and no Kashmiri chilies in the sauce.  Not hot enough.  Go ahead and go for the gusto.  If it’s too hot, serve a little mango lassi on the side.  Who doesn’t like that? 

Sweet, mild, irresistable butter chicken.  Easy or complicated, it's up to you!

Mango and Ginger Kombucha Slushy

Mango and Ginger Kombucha Slushy

I’ve caught the kombucha bug!  (Ha ha, inside joke to those of us fermenting kombucha.) Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage, something like soda, but with major health benefits and a worthy flavour.  You can make your own, as I’ve been doing, or buy it ready made, just be sure to buy the ‘raw’ version. 

Combined with frozen mango it makes about the best slushy you’ll ever taste, not to mention the healthiest!  This easy recipe is made in about three minutes, but it serves only one.  Do your math to make more.

1 cup frozen mango chunks
240 ml ginger kombucha
Sparkling mineral water to taste (optional)
A few drops rosewater (also optional)  

Fling the ingredients into a blender, and buzz to slushy consistency.  Taste.  When I use my homemade kombucha I find the taste a little too strong, so I add sparkling mineral water at this point.  I often add a few drops of rosewater as well, but this ready made kombucha isn’t overly strong, and the ginger is so lovely no additional flavours are needed.

Serve immediately on a hot day!  Refreshing and hydrating, this chilly delight will hit the spot.  Research also tells us that kombucha improves our mood, so drink it at least once a day!

This will cool you down and improve your mood, without drugs!  Amazing stuff, kombucha!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Rhubarb and Roses Sauce with Cardamom Panna Cotta

Rhubarb and Roses Sauce with Cardamom Panna Cotta

Hail broke down three stalks of my rhubarb, so of course I had to put them to the best possible use.  We tend to think of rhubarb going with strawberries, but I suddenly had one of those mystic moments, knowing that rose flavours would somehow be magnificent, and it was.

This sauce could go on anything, especially vanilla ice-cream, but I like it on cottage cheese and also on plain yogurt.  I suppose it would make a great topping for pancakes, crepes, or waffles, especially with a little ice-cream or whipping cream draped over.  But for this dessert, I made cardamom panna cotta, which suits the rose flavours very well.  Panna cotta seems exotic and challenging, but it’s a silly easy dessert.  It needs several hours of setting time, but preparation can be just a few minutes.  Mine took maybe twenty, but it can be done under ten.  This recipe serves eight.

Rhubarb and Roses Sauce

3 stalks of rhubarb (store-bought is pinker, but garden grown is fresher!)
Enough water to go halfway up the rhubarb in the pot
1 cup vanilla sugar, or plain if you don’t have it
½ teaspoon rose water

Slice the rhubarb into half inch pieces.  Put into a sauce pan and add enough water to reach half way up to the rhubarb.  Add sugar, and turn on heat to medium high.  Stay nearby and stir occasionally.  If you cook it too long the colour will shift unpleasantly.  I used largely green rhubarb, but after about five minutes of cooking the juice goes distinctly pink.  As soon as each piece of rhubarb is soft, (less than ten minutes) remove a piece and taste for sweetness.  Add more sugar if needed.  Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat, and squish the rhubarb down a bit with a masher, or even a fork.  Stir in the rose water. Inhale the heavenly fragrance.  Set aside then cover and refrigerate.

Cardamom Panna Cotta

1 cup jaggery powder (raw Indian sugar, found in Indian groceries)
2 cups simmering milk (whole tastes best, but don’t go for less than 2%)
2 envelopes gelatine powder (2 tablespoons)
½ cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, insides scraped out or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups cold milk
4 pods green cardamom, husked and ground to a powder

You can do this the fancy way, or the easy way.  First the fancy:

I went with the fancier method to get more flavour.
In a large saucepan, spread the jaggery powder.  Turn heat to medium high and let melt.  Scooch it along with a heat proof spatula, till it's melted and starting to darken.  Take it off the heat and add the first 2 cups of milk.  The jaggery will seize and get brittle, but don't worry.  Leave it alone for about ten minutes, then put the heat back on  to medium high and stir while the milk is blending with the jaggery and it's starting to simmer.

Or if you are in a hurry, just mix the first 2 cups of milk and sugar, put on medium high heat till the sugar is dissolved and the milk is starting to simmer.  Then sprinkle the gelatine powder over the milk and give it a minute or two to soften.  

Either way, carefully stir the gelatine in, turning to low heat to be sure the gelatine dissolves.  Stir in the cream.  Remove from heat when the sugar and gelatine is dissolved (less than five minutes).  Stir in the remaining cold milk, cardamom and vanilla.  Taste for sweetness and adjust if needed.  

Actual vanilla adds a lot!
I keep whole vanilla beans in a bottle of inexpensive vodka.  I plucked out one, sliced it down the middle, and scraped out the goo, and added that to the mixture.  I put the emptied bean back into the vodka, as the flavour is still good.  You can skip this step if you’d prefer to just add a teaspoon of extract.  Don’t use the fake stuff! 

Strain into individual serving glasses, to make sure no tiny clumps of gelatine make it into anyone’s mouth.  Refrigerate for at least three hours, till they have set and are well chilled.

Just before serving, plop some sauce over each serving.  This dessert is so easy to prepare, and it’s OMG good!  If you are wise, you will have made extra servings to gobble down in the privacy of your bedroom.  If you have left-over sauce, you are luckier still!

Enjoy the extra when you don't have an audience!  It's too good to share.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Another Fancy Chapatti (Onion and Radish)

Onion and Radish Chapatti

We awoke to a crazy wind, bending trees with frantic leaves sailing through the air.  Bravely I went out with my coffee and found the wind was warm.  Almost unheard of in these parts, especially first thing in the morning.  I sat in the sun and recalled the warm breezes of Goa.  That did it. I needed an Indian breakfast.

Luckily I still had some kala channa masala on hand, and as always plain yogurt and Indian pickles.  All I needed was a nice chapatti and I remembered I had lovely radishes in the crisper.  I raced back indoors and started making these, and in less than thirty minutes I had four of these lovelies.

3 radishes, grated
1 piece of red onion, grated to about 2 tablespoons
2 cups whole wheat flour (I live in Alberta and I believe in sourcing local ingredients, hence no Indian atta for me!)
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
½ cup or less of warm water
Extra flour for rolling out dough

The reds make the chapatties look pretty too.
Grate the radishes and onions, and place in a medium size bowl.  Add the flour, salt and yogurt.  Using your fingers, stir and gauge the moisture levels in your dough.  Normally I use about 1 cup of water to 2 cups of flour, since this is a dry climate.  But as the onion and radish added moisture, I had to go by feel.  

You want the dough to be on the sticky side.  Not liquid, but definitely not dry.  Once you’ve slowly mixed in water, a bit at a time, knead the dough in the bowl, using just one hand.  It should be pliable, and a bit sticky.  Knead for about five minutes, till you have a smooth elastic feeling ball.
Heat a griddle on medium heat.  Break off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball, or a bit larger.  With extra flour on your hands,  roll in your palms to get a nice round ball.  Put it on your floured rolling surface, flatten it with the palm of your hand, and roll it out to as circular a shape as you can get.  (Mine still look like maps.  Maybe when I’m 80 will I master the perfectly round chapatti.) 

You want it to be very thin.  Peel it off the surface and dust it with flour, and flip it over and dust again.  Keep rolling till it’s about 1/8 of an inch thick.

Place on the griddle and start on your next ball.  Keep a careful eye on the griddle.  When the chapatti changes colour and texture, and starts to puff, flip it over, and press it gently with the back of a spoon to encourage more puffing.  When the puffing commences nicely, flip it again and brush ghee over it.  Now it will puff more.  Flip it once more and brush more ghee onto it.  In a few seconds, take it off the griddle and place it in tin foil.  Cover it and go to work on the next chapatti, until all are done and resting nicely in the tin foil.

If I’d had time to make South Indian coffee, I would have been totally satisfied, but I didn’t want the chapattis to get cold, nor did I want to become frantic with hunger  My coffee recipe doesn't take long, but sometimes I have little patience.. 

Chapatti, plain yogurt, pickles, kala channa masala, all I needed was the good coffee...

Have I mentioned that I’ve renamed our deck ‘Goa’?  For now, while our temps are in the 30s, I can pretend, as long as I don’t look out onto the soccer fields across the street.  Try as I might, I cannot pretend they are the Arabian Sea.  

Looks exactly like Goa, right?  

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Kala Channa Masala

Kala Channa Masala

My life might be easier if I owned a pressure cooker.  But when I read horrifying descriptions of the disasters involved with them, I just plan well ahead.  If you own a pressure cooker, you can make this dish much more quickly than I can manage.

Kala channa isn’t the usual chick pea we see in cans.  It’s a different variety, and I’m told it’s higher in nutrients, especially iron.  Its flavour is a little different than the usual channa, and it’s a bit more heavily textured.  So far, I’ve seen the pea available only in the dried form, but I’m happy to put in the time required for this dish.  Plan to make this two days ahead of eating, if you use a slow cooker.  You don’t need to be chopping and stirring for the entire time; you just need to get started early.  This recipe makes a big pot of channa masala.

4 cups dried kala channa beans
Water to cover and leave lots of room

1 tablespoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon black ajwain
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
3 black cardamom pods
Cool roasted spices before buzzing.
5 cloves
1 dried Kashmiri chili
1 tablespoon coriander seed
2 large sticks cassia or cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon amchur powder 

2 tablespoons mustard oil
½ teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon mustard seed
1 large red onion, diced 

3 large fresh tomatoes
8 cloves garlic
2 inches ginger
2 Serrano peppers

1 bunch fresh cilantro
Water for blender
1 teaspoon salt, possibly more
2 tablespoons jaggery powder, or to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream, or to taste

Two days ahead of serving, soak the kala channa overnight in water.  Be sure to not just cover the channa, but leave another two inches of water for headroom.  These beans will swell up somewhat.  The next morning, drain and rinse.

In a slow cooker, add the channa and lots of water, again, leave at least two inches of headroom, possibly more.  The beans won’t swell much more, but the beans need to be left for 24 hours worth of cooking on ‘high’ heat (a slow cooker isn’t very hot).  You will need a lot of water for this duration of time.  After they’ve cooked for about 24 hours, turn off the heat and let rest till you’re about to cook these up.  I’ve frozen surplus cooked beans before, so I have them ready when I need them.

About three hours before you need to serve these, dry roast your dry whole spices.  In a heavy and large saucepan, place all the spices except the turmeric and amchur.  Put on medium high heat, and jiggle the pan while you’re watching the progress.  A little smoke and nice fragrance is all you need, then brush them into a spice grinder, along with the turmeric and amchur.  No need to buzz just yet.  Set aside to cool. 
Slice this way, then cross ways for fast dicing.

Meanwhile, add the mustard oil to that saucepan.  Turn heat onto medium high, and when oil is hot add extra cumin seed, then mustard seed.  These will splutter and pop a bit, so within moments, add the onion and stir.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cook till onion is transparent and partially caramelized. 

While the onion is cooking, toss the tomato, garlic, ginger and peppers into a blender.  Buzz to a smooth liquid.  Set aside.  Buzz the spices to a fine powder, and add to the cooking onion.  You may need to add additional oil so the spices can cook more easily.  Stir and cook for a few minutes.  

Have the saucepan lid handy.  Quickly add the buzzed tomato mixture and cover.  Set the blender aside to fill with more water and cilantro for later.  (No use letting those good garlic and chilli flavours get washed away.) 

Cook the tomato and onion mixture till it’s no longer boiling and spitting furiously.  Once it's safe, open the pot and add the cooked channa.  Add more blender water at this point, if needed.  Cook for another hour and a half or so.  Put the fresh cilantro, stems and all, into the blender and add enough water to buzz it into a green liquid.  Add that to the channa.  Add more water if the mix is too thick.

Continue to cook on medium high heat.  In the last half hour of cooking, add salt to taste.  Add jaggery if needed.  (I found my masala tasted quite sharp, so I needed the jaggery.)  Add cream a few minutes before serving.  Adjust for salt, jaggery and cream flavours, then serve with rice or chapattis.  (I served with both!)  

This recipe makes a fabulous main course, when paired with either rice or whole wheat chapattis, and also makes a great side dish to go with butter chicken, kerela and sag paneer

I’m happy to plan ahead, but I wonder, should I bite the bullet and buy myself a pressure cooker? What do you think?  Please drop me a line. 

With butter chicken, kerela, sag paneer and basmati rice.  Chapatties were all eaten by clicking time.